“Who will sing my lullaby?
Who will hold me when I cry?
When I awake and no one’s there
Who will sing my lullaby?”
Africa is a beautiful place, a place that I love to call home. When writing, I try o paint a picture of this Africa: a place where people love each other and the Lord, a place of hope and resilience, a place of blind faith, of renewal and life. But today, I want to tell you a story that breaks my heart. It is my hope that it will break yours too. I hope that tonight you will struggle with your warm shower and home cooked meal as you ponder the question, “Why me? Why am I so blessed?” I pray that this story could challenge you, could make you long for change. Africa is a beautiful place, but today, let it break your heart.
This is the story of Sumini. Sumini is a 5 year old girl that looks no older than three. Her cheek bones, hip bones, rib cage and shoulder blades poke out in the places that an American child would be cute and chubby. Her hair is not the jet black it should be but rather gray-brown from malnutrition. It is 4 am. Sumini is sleeping restlessly next to me in my bed (probably on the only mattress she has ever seen in her life) with a 105 degree fever. Sumini is dying. Just last week a lively, blissful little girl in my kindergarten class, now she tosses and turns helplessly leaving me to pray harder and longer than I ever have in my life. My heart physically hurts in my chest.
5 days ago Sumini walked the three miles to school with a very high fever. Guessing it was malaria, I took her to the hospital and was right. They gave me her treatment but only after warning me that with malaria as far along and sever as hers combined with sever malnutrition the chances of her survival were slim. So here I am. Just watching her breathe and knowing it could be last. And I’m sad. And I’m angry. And I’m scared.
Sumini loves to sing. When she does her voice is small and beautiful and full of joy. She also loves to color. She has gone through two whole coloring books and several of my walls since she has been with us these last few days. She is always eager to help; twhen she got here she found a jerry can and wanted to take it to the lake to fetch water. (She was shocked to learn o f a tap, that water could just flow out of the sink right there in my house!) She is learning her alphabet and to pick different colors out of her box of crayons. She is just a child. She could be your child. She could be you. She could be me. Instead she lives in a dirt hut the size of my little shower with her grandfather who is just about too old to move. She goes days with food. She walks miles to school even when she is sick. Before school, around 5 am, she walks a mile to the well and then back again with 20 pound of water on her head (and she barely weights 60). THAT could be your child. THAT could be you. THAT could be me. She didn’t choose the life she was assigned and you didn’t either. So what if the roles were reversed? What if you were small and scared and dying in Africa of a totally preventable and curable disease and she was sitting comfortably at your computer with a mug of coffee?
When the disciples asked Jesus what the blind man did to deserve his condition, Jesus replied, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned but this happened to him so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” (John 9:3) Poverty is not a sin. I believe it is a condition, a circumstance that allows God’s work to be displayed.
Sumini smiles at me. In the dark, her black face blends right in and all I can see is the bright flash of her teeth. Sumini will not die – not today, because God has put me here to make sure of that. God has put me here to hold her. God has put me here to give her a sponge bath every hour and ibeprophen every four. God has given me the provision to be able to afford the malaria treatment her grandfather cant. God has woken me that I may spend tonight praying vigilantly for the welfare of this child. But what about the others? What about the countless other children who will wake up tonight scared and burning with a fever so high it will kill them? Will anyone notice them? Will anyone even care? Who will sing their lullaby? Who will hold them when they cry?
Every circumstance is an opportunity for God’s work to be displayed. Will we do His work? Will he be displayed in our lives? Sumini could have just as easily been you. How will you change your world today?